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  • 20 June, 2021

  • 17 Min Read

Nuclear Race

Nuclear Race

  • China is in the middle of significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to the Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Year Book 2021.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

  • This think tank is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established in 1966 at Stockholm (Sweden).
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

  • The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that the declining trend that has characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the cold war has stalled.
  • Status of India: According to the year book, India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear warheads at the start of 2021 compared to 150 at the start of last year, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020. China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads up from 320 at the start of 2020.
  • The nine nuclear-armed states - the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea - together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021. Russia and the U.S. together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons and have extensive and expensive modernisation programmes underway, SIPRI said.

IISS report

  • A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, in May titled ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Stability in South Asia: Perceptions and Realities’ said that chance played an important ameliorative role in the India-Pakistan crisis of February 2019 and the two countries “risk stumbling into using their nuclear weapons through miscalculation or misinterpretation in a future crisis.
  • India and Pakistan are seeking new technologies and capabilities that dangerously undermine each other’s defence under the nuclear threshold.
  • Whatever they learn from past crises, the uncharted territory they are now exploring requires enlightened judgement about their doctrines, their nuclear and conventional capabilities, and their unpredictable implications in future crises,” said the report by Antoine Levesque, Research Fellow at the IISS as the lead author.
  • Listing several Confidence Building Measures and other practical steps in this direction, it concluded that a robust, trusted, the reliable, deniable back channel between the leaderships is the most promising means by which India and Pakistan could achieve greater strategic and nuclear deterrence stability.
  • The five largest suppliers in 2016-20 - the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China - accounted for 76% of the total volume of exports of major arms.

Largest Military Spenders:

  • The growth in total spending in 2020 was largely influenced by expenditure patterns in the United States and China (first and second largest spenders respectively).
  • India’s spending of USD 72.9 billion, an increase of 2.1% in 2020, ranked it as the third highest spender in the world.

Importers of Major Arms:

  • SIPRI identified 164 states as importers of major arms in 2016-20.
  • Country Wise: The five largest arms importers were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China, which together accounted for 36% of total arms imports.
  • Region wise: The region that received the largest volume of major arms supplies in 2016-20 was Asia and Oceania, accounting for 42% of the global total, followed by the Middle East, which received 33%.

What are the Treaties related to Nuclear Arsenals?

  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
  • The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).
  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed in 1996 but has yet to enter into force.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will enter into force on 22nd January 2021.
  • Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, and the Wassenaar Arrangement.


India and Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

  • The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament.
  • It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
  • Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967.
  • India did not sign it as the treaty was discriminatory. India argued that treaties like NPT were selectively applicable to only non-nuclear powers and legitimized the monopoly of nuclear power by a few.
  • Consequently India conducted nuclear explosion test in May 1974, all along maintaining that it was committed to peaceful use of atomic energy.
  • In 1998, India again conducted a nuclear explosion tests, and acquired the capacity to use nuclear energy for military purposes.
  • To alleviate the fears of a world community, India formulated a comprehensive nuclear doctrine. The major tenets of this doctrine are:
    • Maintenance of a credible minimum nuclear deterrence.
    • Professes no first use policy.
    • Commitment to global veritable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament leading to a nuclear weapons free world.
  • India has abided by both NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) even though it is a non-signatory. This along with its commitments on nuclear non-proliferation under NSG waiver in 2008 provides India with a strong basis for membership in NSG.


  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the treaty banning all nuclear explosions - everywhere, by everyone.
  • The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996.

Source: TH

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